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Heritage Museum’s green project enters final stage

June 27, 2012

On Wednesday, architecture and landscape architecture faculty and students from Mississippi State University began putting the last pieces of an Earth-friendly puzzle in place — and they were pieces from a former gas station.

Tim Furman, owner of Stromboli’s and the former gas station next door, donated pieces of the awning above the fuel pumps to the Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum. He said he made the donation in memory of Laura Carson, a fellow member of First United Methodist Church who passed away at the age of 11 after a go-kart accident in January 2012.

“She’s buried right over there at the cemetery (across from the museum),” Furman said. “I thought it was a great way to remember her life. The school of architecture and Mississippi State as a whole have supported me for the 10 and a half years I’ve been here. It was an opportunity for me to give back.”

The MSU students and staff will use Furman’s donation to create a new pavilion in front of the museum, completing a four-year MSU landscape architecture project to make the museum grounds a green technology showcase.

Bill Poe, museum board member, said this project has already given the museum a cistern with soaker hoses, sand filtration, porous sidewalks, a rain garden and more. The new pavilion will have a green roof with solar panels feeding electricity to Starkville’s grid and a garden visitors can view via a spiral staircase.

“The green roof idea is something that’s really, really going to come on big, I think, in the future,” Poe said. “It’s been in Europe for years. It’s done quite a lot on the West Coast and the Northwest. You’ve got buildings in New York that have got gardens on the roof.”

When the project is complete, Poe said, no other locale in Mississippi will have more examples of sustainability technology. He said he is grateful to MSU’s landscape architecture department for all it has done for the museum.

“The landscape architecture department kind of adopted this museum four years ago,” Poe said. “The visitation to the museum has more than doubled since this landscape project started. People stop here just to see the garden.”

Landscape architecture professor Cory Gallo is one of the co-directors for an MSU summer class working on the pavilion. He said the four-year plan began when the department presented a master plan to the Starkville Board of Aldermen four years ago and received approval.

While the faculty have led the design effort, Gallo said, students have refined the details and implementation of the design. He said it gives them hands-on experience with building and installation technologies they would not receive in a classroom or during an office internship.

“It’s basically like a learning laboratory outdoors,” Gallo said.

“Basically, this wouldn’t happen without this class setting and without the students.”

Gallo said the heat has been relatively kind to the students and faculty until this week. At least one aspect of the pavilion, the roof itself, will not be completed until the fall, because it is too hot to plant the roof garden and install the green roof system during the summer.

For now, however, at least two of the students involved in the project, Salena Tew and Amy Bragg, say they are finding ways to beat the heat, including Gatorade, water, snacks and a break from 1-4 p.m. Most of their work, Tew said, takes place in the mornings and evenings, minimizing exposure to afternoon heat.

“I think we’re used to it by now,” Tew said. “We’ve been in the heat all month, so it’s not that bad.”

Tew said the hands-on experience is valuable and is not something every architecture student has. Bragg said this extra experience prepares them better for architectural careers.

“It’s definitely more educational when we’re actually out here ... getting to see how it’s actually done,” Bragg said.

Sadik Artunc, landscape architecture head at MSU, said he is excited about the four-year project’s final component, especially because it marks a rare collaboration between MSU’s architecture and landscape architecture schools.

“Despite the challenges of funding and timing and all that, I am happy it is coming very nicely together,” Artunc said. “I think this will be a very nice destination. In addition to the museum itself, this is going to attract a lot of people.”

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